MASSENA - St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force Chairman Joseph D. Gray said Thursday that allowing the monetization of 20 megawatts of hydroelectricity allocated to the task force was a “very significant addition to the language of the Northern New York Power Proceeds Act” passed Monday in Albany.
The legislation, which is expected to quickly be signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, came about through an agreement between the governor and both houses of the New York state Legislature.
Gov. Cuomo announced the deal Wednesday and pointed out that it is part of the memorandum of understanding between the state, the St. Regis Mohawks and St. Lawrence County.
It provides for the “monetization” or sale of the 20 megawatts of hydroelectricity which was allocated to the Local Government Task Force in an effort to replace the lost benefit of the proposed St. Lawrence Aquarium and Ecological Center, which was a major component of the 2002 relicensing agreement with the New York Power Authority.
The Task Force, by a 6-2 vote last week, approved the proposed NNYPPA legislation, but requested language to allow the monetization proceeds to be used in “support for tourism and marketing and advertising efforts for St. Lawrence County tourism and business,” Mr. Gray said in a release.
Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature agreed to the additional language proposed by the task force.
“Task force members felt this language was vital to our economic recovery. We have seen solid evidence of the positive impact tourism can have on our economy and we needed to ensure the money could be used for this emerging sector of local business,” he said. “What may seem like a minor change to the language could very well mean major gains for our area and the people who live here.”
In 2010, the Task Force member towns and NYPA signed a contract that created the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Authority, and allowed it to oversee the allocation and/or monetization on the 20 megawatts and the remaining $16 million of $20 million which the task force secured in the 2002 agreement.
The RVRDA contract also provided the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency with $300,000 annually to provide staff support for the RVRDA.
Since 2010, Mr. Gray said, the governor’s office has refused to allow the monetization to take without special legislation. Until this week, the Senate, Assembly and governor could not agree on the wording of that legislation, according to Mr. Gray.
The RVRDA and the IDA voiced their support for the proposed legislation last week, but failed to request any changes. Similar legislation passed several years ago for western New York allowed the monetization proceeds to be used for broader purposes than those proposed for the NNYPPA and supported by the RVRDA and the IDA.